Since there’s much misconception and misunderstanding about what’s going to happen to Flash in the future, I offer you an interview with a Flash game developer who understands the situation from inside. He’s been working on creating Flash games for a while and you’ll see that he’s got a few neat tricks up his sleeve for those willing to know whether learning Flash is worth it. You’ll learn how long it takes to become a Flash game developer, what to start from, what’s the most difficult thing in the trade. In a nutshell, you’ll get to know everything to make up your mind and choose the right way to go.
How long does it take to become a Flash game developer?
It really depends on many things such as programming experience and understanding of what OOP (Object-oriented Programming) really is. It’s really crucial because ActionScript 3 is an object-oriented programming language. And you also need to realize that a Flash game development process does not only imply programming. You need to make sure that you can create appropriate graphics. Alternatively, you just need to make sure that you have a partner handy who can help when you need it. Plus you need to understand the principles of game graphic design.
As a matter of fact, you can teach yourself some programming from scratch within a rather short time span. So, in order to grasp the basics and start creating simple games, a would-be Flash game developer just needs a bunch of months (like 2-3 or even less). Meanwhile you may need years to polish your skills.
What really sucks is that for some reason or other noobs think that you just need programming skills to get started with creating games and game design does not really matter that much, but the problem is that it’s exactly the other way around! Sure thing, a Flash game developer should be able to write code, but you can’t create a really amazing game if you don’t know the basics of game design.
What do you recommend starting from?
Practice makes perfect. So, in case you got no game development experience whatsoever, you need to start from creating your own simple Flash game. Just make sure that the game is really simple and you can put it together within 1-2 weeks. It can be whatever you want. Something really simple. In any case, the experience that you gain while creating such a game will be your basis for more advanced and robust skills.
I dreamt of creating games on my own when I was way younger. And about 3 years ago or so, I even started reading theoretical books on programming in order to bring my dream to life. And as you might have guessed, I really saw some real progress only when I actually started coding. When my friends and I were students, we used to play one game. And I decided to make that logical game a digital one. As a result, I’ve developed Don’t Eat Last Berry.
But you can’t just sit down and create a game with no programming skills. Is that what you wanted to ask me now? Well, you’re right. Any Flash game developer needs to be able to code. Fortunately, the Internet is rich in step-by-step instructions for creating simple games.
You also want to check some books on this topic. You definitely need to read Foundation Game Design with Flash. I myself found that book way too late because by the time I actually got it I had already developed my first Flash game. But I can say one thing for sure. If you’re a noob, you’ve got to read that book. Hands down. You also need to read Essential ActionScript 3.0 by Colin Moock. It’s actually the Flash Bible. In layman’s terms, it’s a real must-read book. And here’s a rule of thumb. You should not read it without any Flash developing background. It’s really better to get down to reading that book only when you’ve obtained some skills. In the perfect situation, that means after having created your first simple Flash game. Reading that book will really assist you in understanding AS in by far more profound way and you’ll have your skills and knowledge really in place. You’ll see the whole system of it. Down the road, you’ll use the book as a reference when you need to double-check something or find a solution for some problem.
There are lots of useful blogs, dedicated to Flash development issues on the web. Plus you can just use the official documentation from Adobe. You’ll be able to find solutions to about 90% of all the issues you’ll ever have. And you need to always remember: Google is your friend!
What is the most difficult thing in Flash game development?
For me personally, the hardest part is to make yourself move on and improve your skills further. But you really need to do that because you’ll feel gung-ho once you do that and make a step ahead. And when you are actually starting to move, you want more and more. And since you’re a noob (if not, please no offence), every single step deeper is like a real joyful discovery for you. That’s how one becomes a highly-skilled Flash game developer.
What is the Flash game that you like most and why is that?
At this particular time, my favorite game is Kingdom Rush. First off, Tower Defense is one of my favorite genres. And secondly, this game has a really unique combination of game interface, graphics, and sounds. To tell you the truth, the quality level of this game is way higher than I’ve ever seen before. I’d love to see and play this game on a home video game console. On the other hand, it shows that you can create really robust projects with the help of Flash. One promotes Flash this way.
Which of your own games do you like most? And why?
Well, I’ve actually created just 3 games. And nobody has seen the third one so far because I’m trying to trade it at the moment. That’s why my own favorite game is still Turtle Dreams to Fly. It took me pretty long time to make it. As a matter of fact, it’s really hard to assess one’s own game because while developing it you’re gradually starting to really hate it. But in the course of time things start to look up.
In order to create games, do you really need AS3 or you can do it just with AS2?
Again, it really depends on your aims and expectations. You can create pretty much everything you want with AS2 in terms of technology itself, but AS2 is more constrained and it’s also not so optimized as AS3. Moreover, if you really want to make a living creating games and grow as a Flash game designer, you really need to learn AS3. Otherwise you’ll have fewer chances in the industry because you won’t have that much sponsors willing to buy your AS2 game.
What are you planning for jarofgames.com this year?
I have a few other projects and planning to start a new blog about flash game development. In addition, I’m currently working on two game projects. So I cannot say that I have plenty of time to cope with the Jar of Games portal.
So for the next year I’m planning to keep the current speed of new game submissions (5 new games every week) and slightly increase promotion activities to help new players discover Jar of Games. Maybe, I would brand one of my games with the Jar of Games’ splash-screen and logo to spread it all over the internet and drive additional traffic to the site. It would also be great if I find the time to implement some new features (game submissions by users, special abilities for top users etc.).
I know that community is the most important part of overall portal success, so I will focus on building it.
What do you think about the future of Flash?
On a personal note, it’s really hard for me to assess any changes in general demand for Flash experts because I’ve never applied for such a job and I don’t have a mind to. But I regularly read Flash-related blogs and I can see Flash job openings from time to time. So, I assume the demand is pretty high.
Now a few words regarding all that fuss about Flash decline. I can say one thing for sure. Developers used and are going to use whatever is most comfortable and has robust capabilities. And Flash remains the best option for small casual games nowadays.
HTML5 is a real buzzword now, but if you really want to face the truth, it gets obvious that HTML5 can’t compete with Flash at this point. As one Flash guru said, “HTML5 has more conferences than it has games.” That says it all. I do admit that even now you may really want to use rather HTML5 than Flash for creating interactive sites, but HTML5 for creating games is a totally different story. In this day and age, only big corporations like Google or Microsoft can afford creating a really valuable game with HTML5.
At the same time, I’m not saying that indie Flash developers are not supposed to keep an eye on new emerging technologies. It’s possible that HTML5 will get developed enough to beat Flash down the road. You should keep in mind that it does not just take a programming language to be a game developer, but you’re also supposed to understand how game design works. And game design does not depend on which exactly technology you use, Flash or not. So, in case, all of a sudden, Flash gets vanished tomorrow, it’ll take a professional developer a month or so to learn another language and start creating high quality games using it.
If we talk about mobile technologies, it’s even simpler. There’re special converters that allow you to convert your .swf file into a native format for iOS devices. So, after converting, your game will just work on your iPhone or iPad. So, once you create a really cool Flash game, it’ll not take too long or too much effort to submit it to AppStore. We got you covered.
What would you suggest to the guys who just start learning Flash?
For starters, you should understand what exactly you need that for. You won’t go far otherwise. Secondly, you should be persistent. And last but not least, you need to really enjoy the results of your hard work. It’s a really amazing feeling when a bunch of graphics of your project turn into a live game. You’ve got to feel that thing!